On my recent visit to France (I'm going to milk this trip for all its worth) my sister and I were impressed by the ease in which so many Parisians slipped from one language to the next. We witnessed one charming maitre'd attract tourists to his off-beat alley restaurant by speaking English, Portuguese, German, French, Romanian and Polish!
Now, that's impressive!
With divergent countries just a stone's throw from one another, close quarters necessitate that Europeans excel in this kind of admirable linguistic gymnastics (and in my opinion, they're richer for it). In this case,"less (space) is definitely more."
It's exactly the opposite here in America where most of us have barely mastered English, let alone two or three other languages with any fluency or ease ('Bar Spanish' doesn't count: "Dos mas cervezas por favor!") Our home court is so vast, we've little motivation or practical experience to attempt other languages and that's criminal in more ways than one. In our case, being "bigger" isn't necessarily "better."
In today's more conservative marketplace, that sentiment is true for Real Estate as well. Buyers aren't necessarily shopping "bigger;" they are shopping "better." Whereas just a few short years ago, Buyers coveted increasingly larger homes, they are now more attuned to what it actually costs to run and carry these bigger properties and more than willing to sacrifice space for practicality.
Hmmm, that's a big switch.
Interestingly, many Buyers are more comfortable purchasing a home under their maximum allowed loan qualification, instead of stretching to their limit - as they used to do. They no longer desire formal rooms that have little use, save Thanksgiving and Passover. "The kids can share a room until they are older and we will convert the dining room to a family room. . ."
Hmmm, BIG switch!
With much smaller families now the norm, Buyers no longer require five or six bedrooms - each with its own bath. Today's consumer typically seeks an open kitchen with adjoining family room, a home office, a master suite, a small garden, two-car garage, ample storage room, attractive architectural details and good bones! My boss, DJ Grubb, summed up this new market philosophy in DJ fashion: "The new, new is 'authenticity. '" Quality outweighs quantity and form trumps function.
Moreover, 'buy down' buyers aren't necessarily limited to the empty-nester any longer. They are just as likely to be 30-somethings preferring to reduce their growing overhead, minimize their payments and tighten their belts. Their kids aren't yet off to college; they're off to elementary or middle school.
So how to sell a bigger house?
With ingenuity and with value. Stage one bedroom as a home office or gym and another as a convenient upstairs family room. The three or four plus bedroom home that telegraphs "flexible living space," is increasingly more attractive to consumers than a five bedroom house which tends to state "large family home with possibly more bedrooms than you need!"
On the other hand, I grew up in a family of eight (five sisters in all) and the entire Shepherd clan shared one upstairs bathroom every morning. (Try that with today's teens. It wasn't pretty.) That's a scenario, I don't recommend, if family harmony rates high on your list.
The long and short of it is this: if your needs via work or family are likely to evolve UPWARD and OUTWARD, then MORE space may be worth considering - especially with today's bargain rates and even better values. If you anticipate the need for a larger home in the near future, NOW may be the best time to pursue it! Not everyone is choosing to shop small. Some brave souls have enthusiastically embraced the BIG-family concept (either by design or by blending) while others are working from home and others are caring for elderly parents or in-laws.
Identify and market to this segment of the population and you stand a much better chance of attracting and finding the right Buyer for your "bigger" home.
Add value to the mix and many sharp consumers will have a hard time walking away from the additional space - especially if your price per square foot is considerably better than the much smaller house down the street! While bigger isn't necessarily better: "better" is "better" - and that's always been true - in this or any market.
Now that I've mentioned France more than a few times, do you suppose my trip is tax deductible as a "business expense?"
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.